Abiding in Christ

by Nick Laninga

After our evening service devotions on John 15, I was reminded of a poem by Annie Johnson Flint.

Abiding in Christ.
It is the branch that bears the fruit,   
That feels the knife,
To prune it for a larger growth,     
A fuller life.
Though every budding twig be lopped,     
And every grace
Of swaying tendril, springing leaf,     
Be lost a space. 
O thou whose life of joy seems rift,       
Of beauty shorn:
Whose aspirations lie in dust,       
All bruised and torn,
Rejoice, tho each desire, each dream,       
Each hope of thine
Shall fall and fade, it is the hand       
of love define
That holds the knife, that cuts and breaks        
with tenderest touch,
That thou, whose life has borne some fruit       
Mays’t now bear much. 
~Annie Johnson Flint.

Advent at the Chapel: Rejoice! Rejoice!

By Nate Gibson

“Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel Shall Come to Thee, O Israel”

The average Israelite living in the 7th or 8th century B.C. would have had good cause to mourn: the Assyrians had conquered the Kingdom of Israel, carrying a significant number of its citizens into captivity, and just over a century later, the Babylonians conquered and exiled the Kingdom of Judah.  More than the violence and brutality, even more than the despair of being driven from their homeland, the Israelites grieved that God had forsaken them.  

Both kingdoms had turned away from God to worship idols.  They had repeatedly and deliberately broken covenant, and God had finally given up on them… or so it seemed.

Even as the prophet Isaiah warned the people of the judgment to come, he also foretold of a return from exile, of a time when Zion would be restored.  He said, 

“Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.”  

Emmanuel, Hebrew for “God with us”, was not merely a name, but a promise that God had not forsaken His people; that He would rescue them, and once again dwell intimately with them.

The somber words and melody of “O Come O Come Emmanuel” seem at first to evoke the pleading despair that “captive Israel” must have felt.  Then comes the chorus:

Rejoice!  Rejoice!

Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel!

The call to rejoice in the midst of lonely exile breaks through the gloom like a ray of sunlight: 

You will not be alone forever; God himself will dwell with you!

And we know that half a millennium later, Emmanuel did indeed come to Israel in a stable in Bethlehem.

We today understand that the distinction of being God’s chosen people now applies to believers of every tribe, tongue and nation.

Yet, as we sing of ancient Israel in this old Christmas carol, we ought not to miss the parallels between us and the exiled Israelites.

We live between the times in a world that will never truly be our home.  We mourn as wickedness seems to triumph, and sometimes may even question whether God has forsaken us.  

The chorus, then, is as much for us as it was for the Israelites:

Rejoice!  Rejoice!

Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel!

There is, however, one crucial difference: as we await the return of Christ, we rejoice that Emmanuel has already come, and that His Spirit dwells in us.  

In this season of expectation, may our lonely mourning turn to rejoicing–God is with us!

Advent at the Chapel: The Love Song of Christ

by Katlyn Heck


Yet with the woes of sin and strife
The world has suffered long;
Beneath the angel strain have rolled
Two thousand years of wrong;
And man, at war with man, hears not
The love-song which they bring;
O hush the noise, ye men of strife
And hear the angels sing.
~It Came Upon a Midnight Clear


If we were all to take a second to reflect upon our life, I’m sure it wouldn’t be too much of a mental stretch to find that heaviness of sin and strife. The weight we carry out of bed with us in the morning and stubbornly bear until we fall back into bed at night. Some of us may be entering this Christmas season carrying an overwhelming and unfamiliar new weight. Others are strapping on an all too familiar weight we have sorrowfully or even proudly bore up for years. Even others may be crumbling under the vastness of both. Bone weary, lonely, clutching at moments of hope between the ache of doubt. This is both the history and the reality of our world full of suffering. 

This world is going to break our hearts; it is supposed to. The world and the people in it are not meant to be the answer to our longing or the place where we are eternally at home. We are a people with hearts longing to walk with God through his garden of Eden, but instead, we are living in a world of sin. We fight each other often in the name of ego rather than true justice, we serve self instead of Christ, we try to address matters of eternity with the temporary and we turn up the voices of the world so loud that we can’t but miss the whispers of our God. It’s no wonder we suffer. What can we do? Where is our hope?

Friends, here is our chance. At Christmas God does NOT whisper! Let God serenade you with a whole company of heavenly hosts! Let them open up with the first few bars of the universe’s greatest love song, the love song of Jesus Christ!

Hope for our eternity and balm for our souls. Back off the volume of this world this Christmas. Don’t let conflict with others blind you from any conflict you may be in with God. Give perfection and expectations a break. The perfect gift that nobody had the right to expect has already been given. And the sin and strife you carry, it does not and cannot repel Jesus Christ. There was a point to Christ carrying our sin and suffering for us on that cross. He carried it, all of it, from beginning to end.

Christ knows the depth and breadth of it better than we do. Our suffering is not an empty lonely room we are sitting in surrounded by the weight of this world. It’s a place where we meet Jesus. A place where, as we hold onto him, he holds onto the weight of our world.

Jesus tells us in John 16:33: “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

I say this to myself in great measure; O hush the noise friends! The tragedy of missing the love song of Christ is too great to take the risk. 

Advent at the Chapel: Bring a Torch

by Ben Gibson

“Bring a torch Jeanette, Isabella,

Bring a torch, come swiftly and run”

When my brother and I were in high school, we were tasked with burning the blackberry brambles on the farm. After a long day of slashing and burning, we would feel impressed with ourselves the next morning if we could find some hidden ember from the previous day that could be used to start the new day’s fire (Smoky the Bear is frowning at us from somewhere).

Our flame that survived across days is nothing compared to the Olympic flame, which is lit in Greece every four years, to bepassed torch to torch for months until it reaches the new Olympic site.

But a flame kept burning for months does not hold a candle to the one the Church has tended to across the millennia. The night of the Christ’s birth, a fire was lit in Bethlehem that was further fed at Pentecost, and that is now kept alive by Christians across the world until Christ comes again. It is a flame that has passed from torch to torch across years.

Advent is a season of remembering when Christ came down and first lit this flame. And it is a season of anticipating the time when Christ will come again as a refiner’s fire, to make all things new. But it should also be a season in which we are encouraged, this very day, to bring a torch. Our torches bear a flame passed onto us from those who tended it in years gone past and which will be passed on to others to carry for years to come. It is the same flame that burnt in the torches of small children and shepherds in Bethlehem who proclaimed the birth of the Messiah. It is a flame that swept across the Mediterranean and then across the world like a wildfire. It is a flame that has been the only source of warmth and light for the persecuted and the enslaved. And it is the same flame that will burn in the lamps of those who see the bridegroom return.

Bring a torch, Christian. It burns with a flame that has not and will not be quenched.

Advent at the Chapel: Your Sins I Cover

By Noa Lovegren

“Speak ye to Jerusalem of the peace that waits for them,

Tell her that her sins I cover, and her warfare now is over.”

From “Comfort, Comfort Ye My People”

JRR Tolkein has always been one of my favorite authors. The cozy hobbit holes, the terrifying villains, the wonderful surprises, and the heroic characters are just so hard to come by these days. 

Among the vast world of Middle Earth there exists a Ring. Just one small circle of metal. Nothing special to look at, nothing extraordinary in appearance, but its great power of invisibility affects the poor hobbit who wears it quite negatively. The burden of this seemingly insignificant object almost destroys its bearer: the temptation to put it on, the weariness of responsibility, the strain of the mistakes, and the horrid situation it causes. But, immediately, from the very second the ring is destroyed, Frodo is free. There is no more weariness or strain or worry. No burdens on his mind. He is changed and the ring is gone forever.

That is a picture of what God does for us. Our sins are gone forever. God has covered them. Our inward battle with sin has a sure victory. Peace can reign in our hearts because Christ came to earth, died and rose again. God says “Tell my Church that I took care of all that sin, I covered it, I washed it away.” The burden of sin is just a forgotten nightmare. It’s gone, not a trace can be seen or remembered. 

“And a light shined in the cell,

​So, today, wherever you are at in life, no matter how much you’ve sinned or been discouraged by it, be encouraged. For we are looking towards Christ. God has sent Him to be born for us. In Christ, we may say, “Our sins are covered.” 

And there was not any wall,

And there was no dark at all,

Only Thou, Emmanuel.

Light of Love shined in the cell,

Turned to gold the iron bars,

Opened windows to the stars, 

Peace stood there as sentinel.

Dearest Lord, how can it be

That Thou art so kind to me?

Love is shining in my cell,

Jesus, my Emmanuel.”

(excerpt from “Rose From Briar” by Amy Carmichael)

Wiser Lake Chapel Summer 2019 Lecture Series

Join us for our Summer 2019 Lecture Series: 
Reading Genesis 1 as Christian Scripture

The Chapel is presenting a four week summer lecture series by our new Pastor Nathan Chambers, who recently completed his doctorate in Old Testament through the University of Durham in England.  

See below for the schedule of lectures beginning Tuesday July 16. You can plan to attend one or as many as you are able. He will be focusing on “Reading Genesis 1 as part of the Christian Scriptures”, beginning Tuesday, July 16.  

Lectures begin at 7 PM but join us for potluck at 6:15 – bring a hot dish or side dish/dessert to share.  Childcare for those 6 and under will be provided.

Week 1 (July 16)—Contexts and Questions

We set the stage by asking about contexts and questions for reading. First, the questions we put to a text affect our reading. Consider, for example, how we might read Genesis 1 differently if our starting question is ‘How does this text form me for Christian life?’ instead of ‘How old is the world?’ Second, contexts (both the text’s and ours) influence how we read. After looking at various questions and contexts for reading Genesis 1, it is proposed that for the following three sessions, we read Genesis 1 in the context of the Christian canon, asking ‘How does this text function as Christian Scripture?’

Week 2 (July 23)—Maker of Heaven & Earth

We will begin by looking at how the Christian tradition talks about God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) and God’s relationship to the world (simultaneously transcending and present to the created order). We then turn to read Genesis 1 in light of these concerns, looking at how this context focuses our attention on specific details of the text. We will especially ask, ‘Who is God according to Genesis 1?’

Week 3 (July 30)—The World as Creation

We will begin by considering some of the classic ways the Christian tradition describes the created order: contingent, dependent, and yet very good. Then we will again read Genesis 1 together in light of these classic descriptions, asking ‘How does Genesis 1 describe the world as creation?’

Week 4 (August 6)—Living as Creatures

This week, our starting point is the Christian claim that humans are made in the image of God. We then ask ‘What does it mean to live as a creature?’ With these concerns in mind, we turn to Genesis 1-3 and consider how it depicts the human condition. This leads to both reflections on our own identity as creatures and to the implications for how we should relate to other creatures, human and non-human.

Ascension Day

evening59182

by Nick and Diana Laninga

Thursday May 10th. Marks Ascension Day the fortieth day of Easter. It would be good to reflect on the importance of this day with some appropriate text, verse and song as Christ returned to heaven. “The Day He was taken up”

“And He led them as far as Bethany, and He lifted up his hands, and blessed them. And it came to pass, while He blessed them, he was parted from them, and carried up into heaven” [Luke 24: 50-51].

W.H. Griffith Thomas rightly claims that the ascension is not only a great historical fact of the New Testament, but a great factor in the life of Christ and Christians, since it marked the consummation of His redemptive work. What a fitting climax was expressed when He ascended not a single promise was unfulfilled.

 

As J Oswald Sanders states “ He left His own in the very act of blessing. For this He had come, and blessing He departed, not as a condemning judge but as a compassionate friend and High Priest, with hands outstretched.”

Golden harps are sounding,
Angel voices sing,
Pearly gates are opened,
Opened for the King;

Christ, the King of glory,
Jesus, King of love
Is gone up in triumph
To His throne above.
F.R. HAVERGAL. [Author of “Take my life and let it be.”

 

Christ’s redemptive work is complete—the incarnation, crucifixion, and the ascension was a complete and final demonstration that His atonement had forever solved the problem of man’s sin.
If the Christ who had died had stopped at the cross, His work had been incomplete,
If the Christ that was buried had stayed in the tomb, He had only known defeat.
But the way of the cross never stops at the cross, and the way of the tomb leads on
To victorious grace in the heavenly place where the risen Lord has gone.
Poem by ANNIE JOHNSON FLINT. [Author of “He giveth more grace”]

 

The gift of the Holy Spirit was dependent on His glorification.”The Holy Spirit was not yet given; because Jesus was not yet glorified,” was John’s comment on the promise of the Spirit.
John7:39.

Now the comforter has come and abides with us.
The Lord ascendeth up on high, The Lord hath triumphed gloriously,
In power and might excelling; The grave and hell are captive led, Lo He returns, our glorious Head, To His eternal dwelling.
The heavens with joy receive their LORD, By saints, by angel hosts adored; O day of exultation!
O earth, adore thy glorious King! His rising,
His ascension sing with grateful adoration.
Our great High Priest has gone before,
Now on His church His grace to pour,
And still His love He giveth; O may our hearts to Him ascend,
may all within us upward tend
To Him who ever liveth.
ARTHUR TOZER RUSSEL.

“ Why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus who was taken from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.
MARANATHA !!!

Please read song 291 in the Trinity Hymnal”
SEE, THE CONQUEROR MOUNTS IN TRIUMPH”

 

 

Have a blessed Ascension Day.

Another Year is Dawning

by Nick Laninga

ANOTHER YEAR IS DAWNING DEAR FATHER LET IT BE !!!

This is my favorite hymn to call it a year. Thank God for His unfailing love, grace and mercies. May the coming year be one that we live pleasing unto Him.

C.S. Lewis said “ The future is something which everyone reaches at the rate of sixty minutes an hour, whatever he does, whoever he is.” He also said for every newly published book we read we should pick up and read an old book. He said this as thoughts and attitudes change and not always for the better. So digging through my bookshelves I ran across a devotional, “Streams in the Desert “, by Mrs. Chas. E. Cowman copyright 1925. I offer the entry from December 31 for our reflection.

December 31 “Hitherto hath the Lord helped us.” [ I Samuel 7:12 ]

The word “hitherto” seems like a hand pointing in the direction of the past. Twenty years or seventy, and yet “ hitherto has the Lord helped us!” Through poverty, through wealth, through sickness, through health; at home, abroad, on the land, on the sea; in honor, in dishonor, in perplexity, in joy, in trial, in triumph, in prayer, in temptation—“hitherto hath the Lord helped!”

     We delight to look down a long avenue of trees. It is delightful to gaze from one end of the long vista, a sort of verdant temple, with its branching pillars and its arches of leaves. Even so look down the long aisles of your years, at the green boughs of mercy overhead, and the strong pillars of lovingkindness and faithfulness which bear up your joys.

     Are there no birds in yonder branches singing? Surely, there must be many, and they sing of mercy received “hitherto.” But the word also points forward. For when a man gets up to a certain mark, and writes “hitherto” he is not yet at the end; there are still distances to be traversed . More trials, more joys; more temptations, more triumphs; more prayers, more victories; and then comes sickness, old age, disease, and death.

     Is it over now? No! there is more yet—-awakening in Jesus’ likeness, thrones, harps, songs, psalms, white raiment, the face of Jesus, the saints, the glory of God, the fullness of eternity, the infinity of bliss. Oh, be of good courage, believer, and with grateful confidence raise thine “Ebenezer,” for “He who hath helped thee hitherto will help thee all thy journey through.

     When read in Heaven’s light, how glorious and marvelous a prospect will thy “hitherto” unfold to thy grateful eye. C.H. Spurgeon.

     The Alpine shepherds have a beautiful custom of ending the day by singing to one another an evening farewell. The air is so crystalline that the song will carry long distances. As the dusk begins to fall, they gather their flocks and begin to lead them down the mountain paths, singing, “Hitherto hath the Lord helped us. Let us praise His name!” And at last with a sweet courtesy, they sing the friendly farewell; “Goodnight! Goodnight!” The words are taken up by the echoes and from side to side the song goes reverberating sweetly and softly until the music dies away in the distance. P.S. I did not verify this with Hans W.

     So let us call out to one another through the darkness, till the gloom becomes vocal with many voices, encouraging the pilgrim host. Let the echoes gather till a very storm of Hallelujahs break in thundering waves around the sapphire throne, and then as morning breaks we shall find ourselves at the margin of the sea of glass, singing, with the redeemed host, “Blessing and honor and glory be unto him that sitteth on the throne and to the Lamb forever and ever!”

     “This my song through endless ages, Jesus lead me all the way.”

“AND AGAIN THEY SAID , HALLELUJAH!” [ Rev. 19 :3 ]

Have a blessed New Year. The Laninga’s

 

 

Ascension Day 2017

shared by Nick and Diana Laninga

Today marks Ascension Day, the fortieth day of Easter. It would be good to reflect on the importance of this day with some appropriate text, verse and song as Christ returned to heaven.

“And He led them as far as Bethany, and He lifted up his hands, and blessed them. And it came to pass, while He blessed them, he was parted from them, and carried up into heaven” [Luke 24: 50-51].

W.H. Griffith Thomas rightly claims that the ascension is not only a great historical fact of the New Testament, but a great factor in the life of Christ and Christians, since it marked the consummation of His redemptive work. What a fitting climax was expressed when He ascended not a single promise was unfulfilled.

As J Oswald Sanders states “ He left His own in the very act of blessing. For this He had come, and blessing He departed, not as a condemning judge but as a compassionate friend and High Priest, with hands outstretched.”

Golden harps are sounding,
Angel voices sing,
Pearly gates are opened,
Opened for the King;
Christ, the King of glory,
Jesus, King of love Is gone up in triumph
To His throne above.
~F.R. HAVERGAL. [Author of “Take my life and let it be.”

Christ’s redemptive work is complete—the incarnation, crucifixion, and the ascension was a complete and final demonstration that His atonement had forever solved the problem of man’s sin.

If the Christ who had died had stopped at the cross, His work had been incomplete,
If the Christ that was buried had stayed in the tomb, He had only known defeat.
But the way of the cross never stops at the cross, and the way of the tomb leads on
To victorious grace in the heavenly place where the risen Lord has gone.
~Poem by ANNIE JOHNSON FLINT. [Author of “He giveth more grace”]

The gift of the Holy Spirit was dependent on His glorification.”The Holy Spirit was not yet given; because Jesus was not yet glorified
John7:39.

Now the comforter has come and abides with us.
The Lord ascendeth up on high,
The Lord hath triumphed gloriously,
In power and might excelling;
The grave and hell are captive led,
Lo He returns, our glorious Head,
To His eternal dwelling.

The heavens with joy receive their LORD,
By saints, by angel hosts adored; O day of exultation!
O earth, adore thy glorious King! His rising, His ascension sing with grateful adoration.
Our great High Priest has gone before, Now on His church His grace to pour,
And still His love He giveth;
O may our hearts to Him ascend, may all within us upward tend
To Him who ever liveth.

~ARTHUR TOZER RUSSEL.

Why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus who was taken from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.
MARANATHA !!!

Please read song 291 in the Trinity Hymnal”:
SEE, THE CONQUEROR MOUNTS IN TRIUMPH”

Have a blessed Ascension Day. The Laningas